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October 27, 2020

By Brad Binau, Professor of Pastoral Theology, Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Capital University

The Night of Broken Glass

On the night of November 9, 1938, Nazi authorities instigated violent attacks against Jewish persons and their properties across Germany and Austria. Hundreds of Jews died. Tens of thousands were taken prisoner and were shipped off to concentration camps. Because of the countless shards of glass that littered the streets after the violence, this dramatic increase in anti-Jewish violence that foreshadowed “The Final Solution” became known as “Kristallnacht” – “The Night of Broken Glass.”

In the 1990s, Trinity’s president, Dr. Dennis Anderson, developed a strong friendship with artist and Holocaust survivor Alfred Tibor, a Columbus resident. Together they envisioned a memorial that would occupy a prominent place on the Trinity campus, a work of art that would simultaneously commemorate victims of the Jewish Holocaust and celebrate the love of God that promises life even in the face of unspeakable evil.

On Pentecost Sunday in the spring of 1999, Alfred Tibor unveiled his magnificent “Promise for Life” sculpture on the Trinity campus, offering a visual witness to the inscription at the sculpture’s base: “Out of the flames of human hate come the ashes of death. Out of the flame of God’s love comes the promise for life.” 

With the dedication of the “Promise for Life” sculpture, the Seminary committed itself to remember. To remember the terrors of human hatred, to remember those victimized by human hatred, to remember the silence that permits hatred to have its way. One aspect of our commitment to remember has been the annual commemoration of Kristallnacht. Over the past two decades, artists and musicians, speakers, and singers, historians, and theologians have come to the Trinity campus in November to commemorate the pain and celebrate the promise.

In 2020, our observance of Kristallnacht will be as poignant and powerful as ever, although not in person. At 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 9, I invite you and your friends to commemorate and celebrate with us online. The centerpiece of this year’s observance will be the premiere of “The Loss of Innocents: The Nazi Murders at Bullenhuser Damm,” a stunning documentary film produced by local filmmakers at Screen Play.

Produced and directed by Sam Nahem, a member of our Kristallnacht planning committee, the 28- minute film recounts the fate of 20 children who were murdered at the Bullenhuser Damm school in Hamburg, Germany, in April 1945, just days before the German surrender.  In addition to the film, this year’s virtual observance will include remarks from Capital University Interim President David Kaufman, Rabbi Howard Zack of Congregation Torat Emet in Bexley, and University Pastor Drew Tucker. Angelo Dunlap, music director at the Columbus Jewish Day School, and Chad Baker, Capital University organist, will lead the community in musical offerings centered on peace. 

May the necessity of our physical distance this year remind us all the more of our spiritual connections and our commitment to celebrating the Promise for Life.

You can view the film’s trailer now online; the full program will premiere live at 7 p.m. on November 9. Register here.